How Much Money Did Ken Jennings Win on ‘Jeopardy!’?

There’s no disputing that Ken Jennings is a brilliant person. His extensive knowledge of both historical and current events was put on full display during his 74 game winning streak on Jeopardy!, which reinvigorated interest in the game and captivated audiences from coast to coast.

It’s wild to think that Jennings’s historic run — still the longest in the game show’s history — almost didn’t happen at all. Plus, despite how popular Jennings has become in the Jeopardy! fan community, one person came very close to beating his total earnings on the show.

Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings | Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images

Ken Jennings almost never auditioned for the show

The computer programmer was on a trip with a friend when he decided to audition for Jeopardy!, a lifelong dream of his. But that dream almost died before it began thanks to some roadblocks from the beginning.

“The year before, I was down in Los Angeles with a friend of mine on a short vacation, and we always talked about trying out for Jeopardy! since our days on a college quiz-bowl team,” Jennings told Vulture.

“We called Sony and found out that there were no auditions that week, and it was actually a few days after we were planning to leave. We were super bummed, but finally said, ‘You know what? Let’s just come back. Why not?’”

The friends went back, got accepted, and one year later Jennings began his historic run on the show.

Jennings won millions of dollars playing ‘Jeopardy!’

At the time, Jennings had the modest goal of winning a single game of Jeopardy!

“I thought it would be great to win. Just one game!” he revealed. “That was my only goal. I was happy with one, and everything after that was gravy.”

Jennings began his streak with the show that aired June 2, 2004. He easily achieved his goal of winning one game — by the end, Jennings had won 74 straight games and amassed a small fortune of just over $2.5 million.

Nipping close at his heels was fellow rock star contestant James Holzhauer, who won almost as much as Jennings in half the time in 2019. If Holzhauer had continued his winning streak even by a single game, he would have had a chance at surpassing the record Jennings set.

Ken Jennings recently proved he’s still the best of the best

Fans are buzzing that Jennings should be considered to replace Alex Trebek when he retires from his tenure hosting Jeopardy! and then may have a point.

In a recent tournament called Jeopardy!: The Greatest of All Time, Jennings was matched up with Holzhauer and Brad Rutter, another top-earning contestant. And even though Jennings worried about winning after so many years, he came out on top once again. His prize? A cool $1 million.

Previously, Jennings won several other tournaments, including a $2,000 second-place prize in his 75th appearance where he lost in 2004, a $500,000 prize in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions in 2005, a $300,000 prize in Jeopardy’s IBM Challenge in 2011, a $100,000 prize in the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades (2014), and a $100,000 prize in the Jeopardy! All-Star Games.

But hosting the show could be the ultimate jackpot for this game show whiz. Currently, Alex Trebek earns $10 million per year hosting Jeopardy!, making him the top paid game show host.